The accelerated uptake of IP telephony has left a massive shortfall in the availability of trained and certified systems integrators, according to researchers, Frost and Sullivan.
In its half-year update report into the enterprise telephony market, the firm found that the technology which now holds 42 per cent of the market would cause staffing shortages well into 2006.
"There is a skills gap forming and it is initially evident at the system integrator level where there is now a dog fight over sourcing and maintaining people related to VoIP roll outs," senior analyst, Foad Fadaghi, said. "I can't mention names, but it is not uncommon for integrators to pay professionals in that industry fifty thousand to sign on and something around that figure to not leave."
Fadaghi said there were several reasons for the problem but the overall popularity of the technology was the main culprit.
"We are seeing Cisco come to market with an IP phone-only offering to become the number one enterprise telephony vendor in the first half of this year," he said. "This is over and above companies such as Nortel, NEC, Panasonic which sell all sorts of telephony systems."
The shortage was also underpinned by the fact that VoIP networks were more about applications than hardware, Fadaghi said.
"In the past people who have sold phones have sold boxes and have been very good at installing, maintaining and upgrading those boxes," he said. "As VoIP is primarily an application, there is a requirement for those people to know software moreso than hardware, so there exists a gap in their skillsets."
New responsibilities and expectations upon communication and IT departments were also a contributing factor, he said.
"People who have traditionally looked after phones in an enterprise have not necessarily been the IT people," Fadaghi said. "With IP telephony, that responsibility is ending up with IT people who aren't trained in communications or with communications people without IT experience. Either way there is a lot of training that needs to be done in both of those camps."
Currently, vendors were in the midst of training programs to bring integrators up to par, he said, but once the skill shortage was over, integrators would need to look at key verticals where they could differentiate themselves and add value in the form of application development for that particular vertical.
"Resellers that can build applications that sit on IP telephony, and are very vertically focused, will see the growth and lion's share of profitability while the market is still in flux," Fadaghi said.